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Obama: No one in the US should be targeted for how they worship

A vigil in to honor the lives of three university students gunned down earlier this week was held in Dupont Circle in Washington D.C., February 12, 2015
A vigil in to honor the lives of three university students gunned down earlier this week was held in Dupont Circle in Washington D.C., February 12, 2015 McClatchy

President Barack Obama said Friday that no one should be targeted for what they look like or how they worship as he and First Lady Michelle Obama offered condolences to the families of three Muslim American students killed in Chapel Hill, N.C. this week.

In a statement, Obama called the slayings “brutal and outrageous” and said “no one in the United States of America should ever be targeted because of who they are, what they look like, or how they worship.”

He noted that in addition to a local investigation, the FBI on Thursday opened an inquiry into the murders of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, Deah Shaddy Barakat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha to determine whether federal laws were violated.

Barakat, 23; his newlywed wife, Yusor, 21; and her sister, Razan, 19, were killed in a shooting Tuesday in Chapel Hill. A neighbor of Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Police have said a parking dispute may have led to the slayings, though families think the motive involved animosity based on the victims' Muslim faith.

Obama’s remarks came a day after thousands prayed for the slain and he said, “as we saw with the overwhelming presence at the funeral of these young Americans, we are all one American family.

“Whenever anyone is taken from us before their time, we remember how they lived their lives – and the words of one of the victims should inspire the way we live ours,” he said, quoting Yusor as saying: ‘Growing up in America has been such a blessing. It doesn’t matter where you come from. There’s so many different people from so many different places, of different backgrounds and religions – but here, we’re all one.’ “

Alia Bouran, Jordan’s ambassador to the United States traveled to North Carolina Friday to meet with the families, the embassy said, paying condolences to the victims’ families and sharing the “deep sympathy” of King Abdullah II.

The embassy noted that Jordan’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that both Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha held dual citizenship in the United States and Jordan. Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, immigrated to the United States with her family from Jordan when she was 6 months old; her sister Razan, 19, was born in the United States. Yusor had recently graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in biological sciences, while Razan was a sophomore at the same school studying architecture and environmental design.

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